Those wondering whether the long awaited full-length, "Attera Totus Sanctus", from Sweden's DARK FUNERAL is a major departure from the mostly one-tempo (fast) albums of the past can stop wondering. In a general sense, this is no major departure, but it is a somewhat more memorable DARK FUNERAL album. The repeating dark guitar harmonies, jackhammer drumming, and the unrelenting screams of Emperor Magus Caligula have not been left behind. However, while arrangement variety has never been much of a concern in the past, there is more of it on "Attera Totus Sanctus", even if in many cases it is simply a matter of accent and nuance. It still makes a difference though. Even though Daniel Bergstrand's production isn't exactly the black metal cave-dwelling kind, it suits the album rather well and does nothing to lessen the ferocity. If anything, the mix gives the layered harmony parts a sinister symphonic effect.
Little things like the break during the title track in which the band pulls back on the reigns and allows a melodic lead to ride over top a basic riff makes a big difference in the song's dynamics. Though often subtle, the inclusion of a melodic lead works just as well on "King Antichrist" and "Godhate". The latter song is also noteworthy in that the stop-start rhythms add more diversification. The discerning listener will notice Magus' lower vocal tone in parts of the same song. By far the biggest departure comes by way of "Atrium Regina". Even with Caligula continuing to spit his venomous rage, the song is the album's most "melodious" (note the quotation marks), one that flows well with an opaque majesty, and also includes an effective break in the middle section. I suppose one could call it a restrained fury. Memorable vocal lines in "Feed on the Mortals" (which also contains spoken word parts) and "Angel Flesh Impaled" (this one is a ripper) are more examples. In case anyone is interested, Gustaf Hielm (ex-MESHUGGAH) appears as a guest bassist.
Here again, don't take my focus on the aforementioned refinements and subtleties to mean substantive composition change. This is still DARK FUNERAL and those of you seeking complexity in your black metal should look elsewhere. "Attera Totus Sanctus" is the sound of a band giving the fans what they want, yet one that has managed to sneak in a modicum of "progressiveness" (again…the quotation marks) here and there.